St. Michael’s Troubadours hit the stage for Guys and Dolls at Hart House Theatre. Photo courtesy of Eddie Balogh

Troubadours raise curtain on their love of theatre

By  Bernadette Timson, Youth Speak News
  • February 26, 2020

A play featuring gangsters and gamblers doesn’t immediately conjure up many Christian images, but Guys and Dolls isn’t your typical play. 

And neither was the cast that put on this 70-year-old musical comedy at the University of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre from Feb. 13-15.

The production was performed by the St. Michael’s College Troubadours, a drama society affiliated with St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

Set in the Roaring Twenties in New York City, Guys and Dolls  centres around many gamblers, their girlfriends, affectionately referred to as dolls, and focuses on themes of love, gambling and, of course, faith, but more specifically evangelization. 

“We really have such a diverse cast from such a wide range of backgrounds and not everyone is a St. Mike’s student,” said Emma Lavin, the show’s choreographer. 

“I think that everyone is able to interpret the faith elements in the show in their own ways and connect it with their own lives and spirituality, however that may be. I think that they can find that the show is about a lot of trust, love and having faith that a greater plan exists and that everyone will turn out in the end and regardless of anyone’s faith, they’ll be able to connect with that in some way.”

Within the story line, the Christian method of evangelization appears to be quite ineffective, as best demonstrated by the two main characters, gambler Sky Masterson and Sgt. Sarah Brown of the “Save-A-Soul Mission.” 

The Save-A-Soul method of evangelization is quite militant. It calls for sinners to “follow the fold” and repent. Sgt. Sarah inevitably finds it hard to keep the mission alive, as the branch is unsuccessful in recruiting members. 

A gambler by nature, Sky is not religious, but makes a bet with the supporting male lead, Nathan, to take any girl (“doll”) of his choice to Havana, Cuba, resulting in Sky pursuing Sarah. As part of a “marker” owed to Sarah in an attempt to win her over, Sky convinces his band of followers to attend a meeting at the mission. While there, the gamblers are asked to confess any sins, which they do with fake sincerity. 

Sky and Sarah eventually fall in love and Sky asks the supporting female lead, Emily, Nathan’s longtime fiancée, “Why do dolls always want to change their man?” Towards the end, both leading females decide to “marry the man today and change his ways tomorrow.” This results in both couples marrying and Sky becoming active at the mission. 

While the methods of evangelization are outdated by today’s standards, the play has certainly passed the test for entertainment endurance and, for the cast and crew, it’s a creative outlet.

“Student theatre is the best,” said Lavin. “People work so, so very hard on it. We’ve put in a lot of time and effort and none of us are professional dancers or actors or anything. We’re students who might be in school for English or criminology or public health, so many different things, but we are connected by our love of theatre and it’s really, really cool to see on stage.” 

Nour Ramzi is the student director of the play, graduating to the role after two years as stage manager for the Troubadours, which was founded in 2013.

“The most exciting part (as director) has been coming back and trying to find those elements of, ‘How do I make this story come to life with all these different people?’ It’s something that I used to do, but haven’t done in a while,” said Ramzi. 

“So regaining that knowledge and having these very talented actors and crew help me find that footing has been scary, but also really, really exciting.”

Guys and Dolls was the Troubadours’ second production of the school year after presenting zounds!, a comedy about the Greek gods, in the fall. They have another musical, Luv!, about the perils of modern dating, coming up in the last week of March. 

“A lot of our friends are involved, incredible people, incredible artists,” said Ramzi. “I feel like going to see Luv!, someone might say ‘I’m just one person, what’s my ticket going to do?’ but just that one ticket in the numbers will show, ‘This show was successful enough, we can do more next year.’ ”

(Timson, 21, is finishing her Event Management studies at Humber College in Etobicoke, Ont.)

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